When judging Microsoft's 'Games With Gold initiative' purely from a business standpoint and focusing on Microsoft's desire for a shift in public sentiment towards the value of an XBOX Live Gold subscription, it's hard to consider it much of a success up to this point. Mixed community reaction to the game selection not only seems to have failed to help Microsoft's cause, it may have stirred up enough controversy to where it may actually be going against it. The announcement that Magic: The Gathering 2013 and the nearly 7 year old Rainbow Six: Vegas will be September's two releases has, unsurprisingly, done little to change this.
The list so far -
June - Fable III (October 2010)
July - Defense Grid (December 2008), Assassin's Creed II (November 2009)
August - Crackdown (February 2007), Dead Rising 2 (September 2010)
September - Magic: The Gathering 2013 (June 2012), Tom Clancy's Rainbow Six: Vegas (November 2006)
Now, these are certainly not bad games, but attempting to promote a supposed new level of value for a subscription by focusing on aged budget / XBLA games, all while still dangling a six year old shooter (Halo 3) as the most hyped addition? Not exactly 'pre-launch damage control' Microsoft putting it's best foot forward with a program that was supposed to improve Gold's appeal against Playstation Plus.
These are a nice bonus for subscribers that aren't hurting anyone by being made available, I get that, but I strongly feel if you're going to bother with this type of marketing ploy, you either go in guns blazing or avoid bothering at all with a PR risk that could cheapen the perception of the brand. All Microsoft managed to accomplish with their half-assing of GwG thus far is placing even more of a spotlight on the value differential between Gold and PS+, as well as throwing their intentions further into question going forward in regards to providing more notable value for subscribers by evolving Gold beyond being a mere pay wall for core console features.
In its present form, Games With Gold is turning out to be a massively squandered opportunity to start a game of catch-up that should have began long ago. It's 'value' has amounted to a couple of monthly releases whose physical versions could usually be had for cheaper than the monthly subscription rates. And with the program currently being planned through just November of this year, there is little chance for any real turnaround, which for many will most likely leave a bitter aftertaste that could certainly fuel skepticism for similar programs that MS may try in the future.
Microsoft did little, if anything, with using GwG to help maintain or add subscribers leading into the console launches this November. What exactly was the point if this was how they were going to go about it?